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Program Structure (Creating Home)

All 16 sessions in Creating Home follow the same structure. Between an opening and a closing ritual, participants engage in up to seven activities. The opening includes a chalice-lighting and an experience involving the group's labyrinth. Every session revolves thematically around a central story which participants hear and explore in one of the activities.

Every session offers at least one Faith in Action activity. While these activities are optional, Faith in Action is an important element of the overall Tapestry of Faith curriculum series. Some Faith in Action activities can be completed in one meeting; others are longer term and require the involvement of congregants or community members outside your group.

Most sessions offer alternate activities. Depending on your time and interests, you may choose to replace one or more of the session's core activities with an alternate activity, or add an alternate activity to your session. You may also find the alternative activities useful outside of the program for gatherings such as family retreats, intergenerational dinners, or other events where some interesting programming for children is needed.

As you design your program, decide whether the group needs extra meetings to incorporate additional activities or to complete a long-term Faith in Action project. Long-term Faith in Action projects usually involve meetings outside your regular meeting time and/or at another location. Before you commit to an extended program, make sure you obtain the support of your congregational leadership and the children's families.

Quote
One or two quotes introduce the subject of each session. You may decide to read a quote aloud to your group as an entry point to the session. However, the quotes are intended primarily for leaders, and are not always at the child's level of understanding or experience.

Co-leaders may like to discuss the quote as part of preparation for a session. Exploring a quote together can help you each feel grounded in the ideas and activities you will present and can help a team of leaders get "on the same page." Quotes are included in the Taking It Home section for families to consider.

Introduction
The Introduction gives an overview of the session concepts and explains how you can use the activities to teach the concepts. The introduction also describes the session's thematic connection with the other sessions in the program.

Goals
The Goals section provides general participant outcomes for the session. Reviewing the goals will help you connect the session's content and methodologies with the four strands of the Tapestry of Faith religious education programs: ethical, spiritual, Unitarian Universalist identity, and faith development. As you plan a session, apply your knowledge of the group of children, the time and space you have available, and your own strengths and interests as a leader to determine the most important and achievable goals for the session and the activities that will serve them best.

Learning Objectives 
The Learning Objectives section describes specific participant outcomes which the session activities are designed to facilitate. They describe what a participant will learn, become, or be able to do as a result of the learning activities. It may be helpful to think of learning objectives as the building blocks with which Creating Home's larger, "big picture" goals are achieved. If particular learning objectives appeal to you as important, make sure you select the activities for this session that address these outcomes.

Session-at-a-Glance
The Session-at-a-Glance table lists the session activities in a suggested order, and provides an estimated time for completing each activity to conduct a 60-minute session. The table includes all of the core activities from the session Opening through the Closing, plus any Faith in Action activities for the session.

Session-at-a-Glance is a guide for your own planning. From the Session-at-a-Glance table and the alternate activities, you will choose which elements to use and how to combine these to best suit the group, the meeting space, and the amount of time you have.

Keep in mind that many variables inform the actual completion time for an activity. Whole-group discussions will take longer in a large group than in a small group. While six teams can plan their skits as quickly as two teams can, your group will need more time to watch all six skits than to watch two. Remember to consider the time you will need to relocate participants to another area of your meeting room, and the time you will need if you wish to include clean-up in an art activity.

Note that the estimated times for Faith in Action activities include only the preparation and planning work your group will do when you meet together. For most Faith in Action activities, you will need to make special arrangements for participants, their families, other congregants, and sometimes members of the wider community to undertake activities outside the group's regular meeting time.

Spiritual Preparation
Each session provides a spiritual exercise that teachers may use to prepare themselves for leading the session. Taking five or ten minutes to center yourself within the session's purpose and content will support and free you to be present with the children and focus on providing the best possible learning experience. The exercise will guide you to call forth your own life experiences, beliefs, and spirituality and relate these to the session you are about to lead. Take advantage of these exercises as a way to grow spiritually as a leader.

Session Plan
The session plan presents every element of the session in detail in the sequence established in the Session-at-a-Glance table. Additionally, the session plan presents any alternate activities, a Taking It Home section with extension activities for families, and a Resources section. The Resources section includes all the stories, handouts, and other resources you need to lead all of the session activities. The section also suggests additional sources to help you, the leader, further explore the session topics.

If you are reading Creating Home online, you can move as you wish among a session's elements — Opening, Closing, Faith in Action, Activity 4, Resources, etc. Each element occupies its own web page. You can click on "Print this Page" at any time. However, if you click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Workshop" you'll have a user-friendly document on your computer that you can customize as you wish, using your own word processing program. Once you decide which activities you will use, format and print only the materials you need.

Opening: Each session begins with a chalice-lighting ritual. To ensure safety, obtain an LED/battery-operated flaming chalice or use a symbolic chalice. After the first session, participants take their own "name stones" from the group basket and place the stones upon the labyrinth as part of the opening ritual.

The Opening is a time for centering, both for individuals and the group. Also, repeating the opening ritual each session helps participants build a faith language vocabulary, experience faith ritual, and make associations between ritual and the concepts of "home," "family home," and "faith home." While children in this age group tend to enjoy precise repetition of rituals, you will find suggestions here for altering the opening ritual each time you meet to introduce the session topic. Take the liberty you need to shape an opening ritual that suits the group, works within space limitations, and reflects the culture and practices of your congregation.

Activities: Up to six activities form the core content of each session. The variety of activities presented within each session addresses different learning styles you may find among participants. In each session, one activity focuses the group's attention on a story that illuminates the session theme.

Presenting activities in the sequence suggested will help you provide a coherent learning experience. In general, sessions are structured to first activate children's interest in and prior knowledge of the main topic; next, offer hands-on engagement with the topic; and finally, provide opportunities to process and apply new observations and knowledge. The suggested sequence alternates listening and talking, sitting still and moving about, individual exploration and team or whole group exploration, to provide variation that will help keep five- and six-year-olds engaged and on track. As you mix and match activities to form a session that will work well for you, keep in mind young participants' journey of learning and the benefits of a well paced session that includes different kinds of activities.

Materials for Activity: Provided for each activity, this checklist tells you the supplies you will need.

Preparation for Activity: Review the bulleted preparation "to do" list for each activity at least one week ahead of a session The list provides all the advance work you need to do for the activity, from securing parent permissions for an off-site walk to mixing Plaster of Paris before participants arrive.

Description of Activity: This section provides detailed directions for implementing the activity. For many activities, the description includes a rationale which links the activity thematically to the rest of the session and to the entire program.

Read the activity descriptions carefully during your planning process so that you understand each activity and its purpose. Later, when you are leading the group, use the description as a step-by-step how-to manual.

Including All Participants: Adaptation to include all participants should always be part of your planning process. For certain activities, an Including All Participants section suggests specific modifications to make the activity manageable and meaningful for children with limitations of mobility, sight, hearing, or cognition.

Faith in Action: An important component of the program, Faith in Action activities give children practice at being Unitarian Universalists in the world. When you lead a Faith in Action project, you create an opportunity for participants to experience the active expression of faith values.

By design, Faith in Action activities engage leaders, participants, their families, other congregants, and sometimes members of the wider community, often outside the group's regular meeting time and place. Faith in Action projects usually require special arrangements to be made in advance. Like the core and alternate activities, Faith in Action activities include a materials checklist, a list of preparations you must make ahead of time, and a detailed description of the activity.

Most sessions either introduce a new Faith in Action activity or describe a step the group will take in a long-term Faith in Action activity. However, when you get to a particular session, the group may not be ready for a new Faith in Action activity. Or, you may be "on hold" midway through a long-term Faith in Action project, perhaps waiting for supplies to arrive or for an environmental organization to schedule time to visit your religious education program. It is perfectly fine for the Faith in Action component of Creating Home to deviate from the suggested timetable!

Before your first Creating Home session, decide which Faith in Action activities you will do over the course of the program. As you plan each session, make sure you allocate the time you'll need to move Faith in Action project(s) forward. Sessions that present Faith in Action activities also provide estimates of how much time you will spend completing this particular stage of the project.

Plan well, but remain flexible. Be aware that inclement weather, the last-minute cancellation of a scheduled visitor, or other surprises may bump a planned Faith in Action activity to a later session.

Note: Faith in Action activities can also be used in ways independent of the Creating Home program for a wide age-span of children, or for multi-generational groups.

Closing: Each session includes a closing ritual which includes the return of children's name stones to the group basket from the labyrinth, a structured opportunity for sharing responses to the session, and the extinguishing of the chalice. The Closing signals the end of the group's time together. As you plan each session, allow plenty of time for your Closing. Avoid rushing through it. You may wish to use your Taking It Home handout to describe the sacred intent of opening and closing rituals and their importance in the Creating Home program.

As with the Opening, repeating the same basic Closing at the end of each session will be both enjoyable and educational for children. Yet, you will find suggestions in each session for tailoring the Closing to the session's topic. Shape a closing ritual that fits the group and your faith home culture and practices.

Leader Reflection and Planning: This section provides guidance, often in the form of questions, to help co-leaders process the session after it is concluded and use their reflections to shape future sessions.

Taking It Home: Taking It Home resources for each session are designed to help families extend their children's religious education experiences. These resources may include games, conversation topics, ideas for incorporating Unitarian Universalist rituals into the home environment, and/or online sources for the session's themes. Download the Taking It Home section and adapt it to reflect the actual activities you have included in the session. You can print and photocopy the Taking It Home section for children to bring home, or send it to all parents/caregivers as a group email.

Alternate Activities: Most sessions feature one or more alternate activities. You can substitute these for core session activities or add them to the core activities. Sometimes the alternate activities are simpler, useful if the group as a whole seems unready for the core activities or if the group includes children with vast developmental differences. Materials checklists, preparation, and descriptions for alternate activities appear in the same format as they do in openings, closings, core activities, and Faith in Action activities.

Resources: In a session's Resources section, you will find the full text of stories, artwork, handouts, and all the other resources you need to lead every element of the session.

Under the heading "Stories," you will find the full text of the session's central story and any other stories that you will need for any session activities.

Under the heading "Handouts," you will find any material that needs to be printed and photocopied for participants to use in the session.

Under the heading "Leader Resources," you will find all the components you need to lead the session activities. These may include a recipe, a puzzle for you to print out and cut into pieces; an illustration you will show the group, which you can print as a hard copy or display on a computer as a PowerPoint slide, etc.

Under the heading "Find Out More," you will find book and video titles, website URLs, and other selected resources to further explore the session topics.

For more information contact web@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.

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